Hello everybody, and welcome to this latest edition of…
I’m thinking of switching up my column banner. I’m wondering if I wanna change it to either this…
How cool is it that you can get these on a T-shirt? 🙂
I wanna start with some Batman stuff before I get to the meat of the column – first, if you wanna check out a pretty slick fan film done on a $27,000 budget, click here for BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS.I’ve also come across a couple of very useful reviews/analyses ofBATMAN #700 hereand here…
…because if you’re like me, when it comes to reading what can only be called “vintage Morrison,” you need a little help deciphering some of that dense subtext that comes from Grant’s fondness for using everything that’s ever happened in 71 years of Batman comics, Crises-be-damned.
When you think about it, you have to give him credit for recognizing that he can kind of get away with that – because when CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS came and went, Dick Grayson’s new identity as Nightwing was a proven hit and Jason Todd was already in the picture, so Batman’s earlier career (and partnership with Dick Grayson) became a largely unwritten history, at least in post-Crisis terms. Morrison’s gotten a lot of mileage contextualizing those stories from the 40s, 50s and 60s and has made for a very rich, entertaining ongoing tenure on the Bat-books, for my money.
Next, while I’m eagerly awaiting the release for BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD – now slated for July 27th – there’s already some very exciting information dropping about the next Batman video project. Some of you may recall my sixty-seventh column,where I said the following:
Oooh, hey – if DC needs an idea for a straight-to-video animated trilogy that would rake in some SERIOUS dollar, how aboutBATMAN: YEAR ONE…
ComicBookMovie.comfound that bit of news buried in a ComicsContinuum.com post from the 13th of this month, quote: “Lauren Montogomery is co-directing the BATMAN: YEAR ONE animated movie with Sam Liu, according to The Continuum’s sources. Asked for confirmation of Montgomery’s involvement, a representative of Warner Home Video would not comment. The studio has yet to publicly acknowledge the existence of the film.”
And the really exciting bit of news: “Montgomery and Liu co-directed JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS.”
This has be one of the smartest things DC could do in their animated features department. If you have a fanboy/girl in your life, this is maybe the EASIEST gift purchase you could ever make. And if it’s being helmed by people who were involved in CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS, then this is guaranteed to be quality!
The only thing I could hope is that everybody involved in this project gives us BATMAN: YEAR ONEas verbatim as possible. This story was already so tightly executed that nothing else needs to be done with it. The original story wasn’t tied in with anything else being published at the time, so it stands beautifully all on its own. And if anybody at DC Animated does happen to read this piddly little column of mine, following this up with LONG HALLOWEEN and then DARK VICTORY wouldn’t be the worst idea you’d ever had!
Although, if you don’t wanna do the license-to-print-money trilogy thing, there’s always a few other stories you can go with instead…
…or in addition to!
Okay, now that I got that out of the way, I want to get into an underlying thread that seems to be permeating a lot of the columns you’ve been reading here on the Nexus. As always, I’m not going to speak for anybody else, not the other Nexus writers, not any of our readers. This is just me talking. If you agree, great. If you don’t, also great. I’m just glad you’re reading. Okay…here we go.
Whether you’ve been reading Pulse Glazer’sEAST OF GOTHAM series and its focus on problems he sees in DC’s creative assignment process, or John Babos’sexamination of the Sameness syndrome that permeates both Marvel and DC’s comic output, or even if it’s Mathan Erhardt’sheartfelt declaration that Geoff Johns MUST Be Stopped!, there’s a general feel among a great deal of us that, at the very least, we could be getting a lot more out of our mainstream superhero comics. But in any number of ways, we are not.
Comic prices among the Big Two have climbed to ridiculous heights over the last few years, and whether it’s in terms of literal page count or quality of story, we are getting less now in terms of story satisfaction for what we’re being asked to pay. And what’s worse, for whatever reason, it feels as though those in charge of Marvel and DC’s creative directions seem to exist in some sort of echo chamber where they can either do no wrong, or they feel no need to take good-faith criticism seriously. They’re doing whatever they feel like doing, and in those worst case scenarios, whenever a select few “superstar” namesabuse their own creative power and/or reputation and indulge their personal desires without any regard for continuity, characterization or any of the basics of proper fiction writing, we’re supposed to just get over it and keep shelling out more and more, month after month!
How insulting is that? How am I supposed to care about what Brian Michael Bendis is doing on THE AVENGERS now, when he didn’t bother to give due respect to its previous incarnation seven years ago?
How am I supposed to care about Hal Jordan or Barry Allen now, when Geoff Johns does everything he can to force their respective predecessors (the ORIGINAL characters to bear the name, mind you!) and successors into these distant second banana roles, with no apparent regard for the many other writers that came before, whose hard work and effort got them over in the first place?
How am I supposed to ignore an avalanche of manufactured “event” storylines that just keep coming and coming, one after the other, when they threaten to intrude upon the individual comic books I am reading?
I had a discussion about Spider-Man with a fellow writer a while back, where he told me that while he thought ONE MORE DAY was a horrible idea, at least Spider-Man stories that came as a result were better for it.
Look – I’m gonna make this clear. Even if each subsequent issue were in equal contention for an Eisner nomination, that does not change a thing. I don’t care who you get to write them, and I don’t care who you get to draw them. They are still an extension of ONE MORE DAY, and as long as that’s the continuity in place, I will not buy THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.What, you think you can absolve yourself of a hit-and-run just because afterwards, you manage to stop at every red light and stop sign, and obey every known traffic law on the books for the next twenty, thirty or forty miles?
YOU STILL RAN OVER SOMEBODY!
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, to stick with it for an instance longer, has been moving a third of the number of comics over the last two years than they were when J. Michael Straczynski was writing the book, and sales overall are in the cellar.
(Click on the Chart itself for a more detailed breakdown!) And yet, the guy responsible for this stubborn adherence to NO GOOD REASON actually gets a promotion?
So what can be done about this as a customer and a reader? Vote with your wallet? Not only does that not work, but it seems to be what’s gotten us to this point. As this September ’09 post from John Seavey’s blog FRAGGMENTEDindicates, all that does is eliminate from the comics-buying pool, those who are put off by these trends. “If you vote with your wallet,” he says, “if you decide not to buy comics anymore because you think they’ve become grotesque exercises in padding, short-term shock value, dreary and unpleasant characters doing ugly and unlikeable things, and destroying everything that was once fun about the superhero genre in order to show the guys who used to make fun of the writer in high school that comics are too for grown-ups!…then you’re no longer going to the comics stores. You are no longer engaged with the comics community. You are, to all intents and purposes, invisible to comics.”
So that’s one thing. If we want more from the Big Two, we have to stick around and we have to remain vocal. But how do you get their attention? Here’s one thing I’ve noticed that does the trick…
Comic book downloading. Torrenting. “Piracy.” The dirty, polarizing little thing that folks are quick to jump on. I know from personal experience; I wound up on Dan Slott’s radar last year, because in the original text of my review of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600,I made mention that I downloaded a copy of the comic. You’ll note that it’s not in there anymore, because starting with a single email to the Nexus’ editor-in-chief that read, “Quick question: How can ComicsNexus be okay with hiring and/or publishing articles by Greg Manuel when he advocates pirating copyrighted material?” Dan then persisted in getting that content altered.
I was stunned, then disappointed, then infuriated that he had a problem with something I wrote, but couldn’t be bothered to write me about it. I almost quit over it. I got into a flame-war with Dan himself over it on another message board. It sticks with me to this day, even after learning that this is something he’s felt strongly about for years,well before I wrote my review. Either way as a result of that experience, this is the only exception to a promise I’d made a year ago not to mention him by name, or endorse, or even discuss anything he writes ever again. I still have a handful of issues of BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES from the earlier part of the decade, but I have no use for bullies, and as of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600, if I see Dan Slott’s name anywhere in the credits, it’s going back on the shelf.
But if I haven’t made it plain before, let me do so now: I have always preferred to tell people why I make the decisions I make, in place of telling you what decisions you should be making. If there’s anything I will advocate, it is being a satisfied consumer. Do what you have to do to make sure you’re spending your money in a way that will not leave you feeling robbed. Monthly comics cost about as much as a small meal nowadays, and stores do not give refunds on them. I know this – I’ve tried.
And that’s what some, perhaps many, perhaps most of its opponents within the industry don’t like about downloading/torrenting, or as they want to call it, “piracy.” That’s also a pretty good reason to use a qualitative term like “piracy,” because if you dress the matter in such villainous language, who’s likely to see it as the equalizer it is?
I’m not about to discuss the legality or the morality of it, because let’s be honest: legal/illegal and right/wrong don’t always line up. But it’s out there, and it’s not going away. And even if the Big Two make digital copies of their comic books available for sale, that won’t mean a thing either. (For all the success the RIAA has had, do you really think iTunes and Rhapsody and Napster are the only places you can download mp3’s?) And it has been well demonstrated ever since it became possible to find them, that if they become aware that you are either downloading digital copies of newly published comics or distributing them, you will become very visible to the industry.
I don’t know if you agree with downloading comics, nor will I try to tell you how to feel about it. Personally, I can’t think of anybody I know who downloads (if they do so at all) for any other reason than to inform their purchasing choices, and in all honesty, I think anyone who downloads in lieu of collecting is cheating themselves out of the full comic book experience. But however you may feel about the principal act, just think for a second of what it might look like if more and more fans were to get up at DC or Marvel panels at conventions around the country and say, “I downloaded your latest event and I’m glad I did, because I knew for certain that this was/was NOT worth my money. Being so informed, I was able to go to my local comic book store and buy a copy/spend my money onsomething else.”
Or if more and more fans went to signings at their favorite shop and said, “I downloaded this comic book you wrote/drew and I am glad that I did, because I never would’ve known to look for it in the shop.” Or, “I downloaded this comic book you wrote/drew, and I’m glad that I did, because I do not support this direction and I would be grossly dissatisfied if I had to pay three, four or five dollars to reach that conclusion.”
And if met with objection, imagine if more and more fans simply said: “I respect your position on this, but that doesn’t invalidate mine. The way I see it, I reserve the right to use whatever tools at my disposal to ensure that I get my money’s worth, and if you want my money, I expect – no, I DEMAND – the best that you’ve got.”